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Album review: Les Claypool's 'Of Fungi and Foe'

March 16, 2009 |  4:59 pm

Les_claypool240 "What would Sir George Martin do?" asks Les Claypool in a track from his new solo effort, "Of Fungi and Foe." Well, he probably wouldn't make an album like this one.

There's no doubting that the famed Beatles producer pushed the Fab Four into creative wilds they might not have explored on their own. Yet as musical oddballs go, Martin pales in comparison to Claypool, who's complemented a lengthy stint as the frontman of Primus with a bevy of side projects, including Oysterhead (alongside Trey Anastasio of Phish) and Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains (with Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell).

Claypool's signature sound layers angular punk riffs over elastic funk grooves, but that's only a foundation; his music is really defined by its deadpan lounge-jazz trimmings and creepy redneck-country vocals.

The dozen tunes on "Of Fungi and Foe" grew out of soundtrack material Claypool was hired to write for the Nintendo game "Mushroom Men" and the independent film "Pig Hunt," though it's unlikely you'd suspect that if you didn't know it. In "Red State Girl," over a skeletal oom-pah beat, he describes a Sarah Palin admirer with "powder on and up in her nose," while "Ol' Rosco" charts the grim course of a drunk driver following his "lunchtime chug-a-lug."

Eugene Hütz of the great New York gypsy-punk group Gogol Bordello joins Claypool for the album's most energetic cut, "Bite Out of Life," which revs into a disco-fied folk-metal jam that could double as Rage Against the Machine covering the Gipsy Kings.

Talk about your magical mystery tours.

--Mikael Wood

Les Claypool
"Of Fungi and Foe"
(Prawn Song)
(Two and a half stars)